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Nonfiction Matters
Inside Nonfiction Matters

A Modest Suggestion for Those Who Want to Understand the NF-Hunter Mindset

I blogged here recently about the hunter mindset (not specifically those who hunt, but that largely male orientation to goals as expressed in stripped down facts, objections, drive to succeed, compete, conquer). I drove to visit my 91 year old mother today and on the way I listened to a local sports radio channel. Last night the New York Giants played and lost their first preseason football game — playing against a not very good Carolina Panther team. The radio debate was over the Giants quarterback Eli Manning (stay with me, oh readers, I will get back to kids, reading and NF). Eli is the younger brother of Payton Manning — a quarterback for the Indianapolis Colts who will surely be elected to the Hall of Fame after he retires. Eli is no Payton, but he was the number 1 draft choice in 2004 — and NY, desperate to get him, traded to San Diego for him. San Diego in turn drafted Philip Rivers. Over their careers Rivers has done better than Manning, except that Manning led the Giants to win the Super Bowl in 2008. Is Eli good or bad? Better than Rivers or not? Eli gave up 30 interceptions last year — which is horrible. One caller used this to prove he is not great, not even good. A second caller than pointed out that a decent % of those interceptions came on balls that bounced off of receivers’ hand and into the arms of defenders. Caller after caller mixed command of stats with personal passion to argue that Eli was bad, good, or trending one way or the other.

After listening to this debate for a half hour or so I realized what I needed to say here: friends, if you write NF, teach NF, share NF with kids in libraries, you should listen to at least an hour of sports talk radio each week. The men (and it is almost entirely men) who call in are the fathers, uncles, cousins and especially coaches and mentors of many of the boys you serve. Their mindst is the cultural world in which many boys grow up. I am not saying you need more sports books. I am not saying you need to learn the lingo. I don’t like sports talk radio very much myself — the Yankee game was rained out so I needed another fix. But I am saying you need to be exposed to this world — to the hunter mindset — where facts and the quest to conquer rule. Exposure to this world may give you new ideas about what to write, how to share books — how some of the people who read NF books think, how they are accustomed to making judgments and reaching conclusions.

I loved a later debate about whether Texas A & M should change which conference their football team plays in. The announcer gave a rah rah speech about how A & M should not move away from its big brother rival Texas, rather if “Texas is the Big Dog, go the porch and wrestle the bone out of its mouth.” That mentality is not good or bad — I am not highlighting it here to praise or condemn, but to expose all of you to a mindset you need to know.


  1. Hey, Marc:
    I do listen to sports radio occasionally and I am well aware of the passion with which the callers and host make their points. But what I realized while reading your column was the importance that math plays in all this. These are probably the same people who asked, “When will I ever use this?” when they studied statistics in ninth grade, and here they are, basing intricate arguments around percentages and other stats. As a former editor of Scholastic’s math magazines, I find that very satisfying.

  2. Marc Aronson says:

    Math is the great slighted wonder of education. The way we mistreat, abuse, and disdain math is really unfortunate.